Minister in favor of mom, apple pie

Published 1:19 am Saturday, April 2, 2016

By the Rev. Bob Madsen

Presbyterians tend to be a relatively reserved branch of the Christian family tree. We are not typically very demonstrative. Nor are we overly active when we are engaged in worship. We mostly sit. We stand up at the times indicated in our bulletin – at least we are invited to stand. Worshippers may remain seated if standing is difficult. But they may also remain seated simply because they want to remain seated. We just don’t publish that in our bulletin.

You are unlikely to hear anyone shouting a “Yes, Lord” during the course of a service; though you might occasionally hear a rather quiet “amen.” (When I was serving another Presbyterian Church someone shouted out “Amen” at the conclusion of a sermon one Sunday. I nearly fell over in surprise. It turned out to be a minister I had known a few years earlier. He happened to be in town and he was saying “hello.”)

It is also unlikely that you would hear a minister ask the question often asked in other traditions, “Can I get a witness?” My impression of that question is that it is an invitation for someone to offer an amen in support of the point the minister is making. There are times when it is good to know that we aren’t out there by ourselves and getting a witness or an amen might be helpful.

Can I get a witness? That’s a good question to ask in gatherings of Christian folk because that is precisely what Christian folk are supposed to be. We are supposed to be witnesses. We are supposed to bear witness to the good news of the gospel as we have received it. Even undemonstrative Presbyterians are witnesses.

Jesus tells his disciples at the end of Luke and at the beginning of Acts that we are to be his witnesses. And the language continues later in Acts and in other places in the New Testament. The followers of Jesus pick up the word and apply it to themselves – we are all witnesses.

Being a witness of the gospel involves more than simply saying “I believe these things to be true” and giving some reason why one believes these things. Being a witness involves demonstrating the gospel in one’s life – living in ways that bear witness to one’s having been claimed by God in grace by living gracefully toward and with others.

I was stunned this week when Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced he would veto legislation that recently passed the state’s legislature and provided legal cover for discriminatory actions toward persons based on gender identity. I did not expect the veto.

But I was equally stunned by his willingness to speak confidently about how his own religious views – not just his political views (with which I was also surprised to discover that I agreed) – shaped his decision. Deal said that discriminatory behavior is out of step with the teachings of Jesus. He pointed to Jesus’ embrace of those of his time who were considered by religious and civil leaders to be outcasts and to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples to do the same.

Deal acknowledged that his view is not universally accepted among Christians and that he was likely to be in hot water with some of his church friends.

I believe he is right. Discriminatory laws and behavior are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know Gov. Deal, but I doubt that he and I have much in common. However, for his view on living in light of the grace of God shown the world in Jesus Christ, and bearing witness to that grace by taking this stand and action, from this reserved Presbyterian, he gets an “Amen” even though he didn’t ask for one.


– Bob Madsen is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Andalusia